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Nobody wins in DeSantis' war on woke | Opinion - South Florida Sun Sentinel

Author: South Florida Sun Sentinel

Source: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/2023/10/29/nobody-wins-in-desantis-war-on-woke-opinion/

Image of Nobody wins in DeSantis' war on woke | Opinion - South Florida Sun Sentinel

From the GOP presidential debate stage to the streets of Iowa, we’ve heard Gov.Ron DeSantis describe himself as a general in what he calls the “war on woke.”Since becoming governor of Florida, his attacks on marginalized communities for political cachet have stripped rights from communities of color and LGBTQ people all across the Sunshine State.And it hasn’t stopped there.DeSantis has taken shots at everyone from teachers to health care providers, prioritizing cheap political points over our students’ futures and Floridians’ access to quality health care.And these policies and laws have created an incubator for similar harm in other states — a cut and paste of hate.No matter where you fall politically, Floridians have all been paying the price for DeSantis’ scorched-earth “war.”At the National LGBTQ Task Force, we have been fighting attacks like these for the past 50 years, and this certainly isn’t the first time that we have seen our community scapegoated for political gains.Remember Anita Bryant? But this moment is bigger than just us — we all need to come together to build power and create an infrastructure that will stop the harmwe are experiencing all across Florida.Rae Leiner is the field director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, leading the organization’s advocacy throughout Florida.They were heavily involved in Florida’s Queer the Vote Initiative and currently reside in Hudson Valley, NY.In DeSantis’ war, schools are now political battlefields, and coordinated attempts to sow distrust in our state’s teachers and censor what they teach are having very real impacts in the classroom and beyond.Efforts to erase the truth from our history books, restrict what educators teach students, and center comfort over serious conversations have caused an exodus of educators across the state.And it’s not just K-12 classrooms.These laws have equally devastating impacts on our state’s colleges and universities. In 2022 alone, 103 faculty resigned from the University of Central Florida, 136 left Florida State University, and 146 left the University of South Florida — all setting records for the number of faculty lost over the past five years.Educators have made it clear they are quitting over fears of these new laws that effectively criminalize teachers.And these hits come at a time when Florida is desperately struggling to recruit and retain teachers, with data showing Florida has the lowest teacher-to-population ratio in the country.Pushing teachers out of the classroom at a time when we are experiencing a national teacher shortage isn’t just reckless politics, it is proof that while DeSantis’ political strategy is to target LGBTQ communities and communities of color, the collateral damage impacts all of us.In addition to teacher shortages, states with legislatures that recently passed some of the strictest anti-abortion and anti-trans laws in the country are seeing a dramatic decrease in medical providers.Reproductive and gender-affirming care bans are hurting Florida’s chances to recruit the next generation of doctors, as medical students also cite these bans as a deciding factor in choosing where to apply for residency.This loss of doctors and teachers will have devastating impacts over time, leading to longer wait times in emergency rooms and even less individualized attention in our children’s classrooms.Some within our community are saying “get out of Florida” and “boycott Florida.” But when politicians tear down our institutions and take away our rights, protections and dignity, we know there is only one thing to do — fight back. We are not willing to abandon our community and all those impacted by these attacks.The National LGBTQ Task Force hosted our 50th Anniversary Gala in Miami this month, where we raised money for our national work and local LGBTQ organizations leading the fight at the grassroots level.We will also continue to train the next generation of Florida organizers and activists through programs like Creating Change 365 and our Building Queer Power training series.When the Task Force was founded 50 years ago, being queer was considered a mental illness and marriage equality was an unfathomable idea.The current moment tells us that our fights are far from over.Progress is not linear, but we’re beginning the next 50 years with a national network of organizers, activists and allies ready to defend our hard-won rights and fight for a better and more inclusive tomorrow.As our state continues to push forward more anti-LGBTQ and other discriminatory laws, we must remember that what targets some of us will ultimately impact all of us. We all benefit when our students are supported and our teachers and health care workers can focus on doing what they do best — their jobs.Rae Leiner is the field director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, leading the organization’s advocacy throughout Florida.They were heavily involved in Florida’s Queer the Vote Initiative and currently reside in Hudson Valley, NY.

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